This week’s been a bit unexpectedly brutal. You’ll be seeing this on a Saturday but it’s sitting in Thursday’s blog spot, for reasons that are all over social media. I assume that people read here and follow me, and therefore do my best not to repeat the same stuff. Therefore, if you wanna go catch up, this blog is not for you. Here is where it is admitted, to the room, there is a new poetry collection in progress. I dunno where it will go, or whether it will even see the light of day.
The key here is that it is demanding to be written.
So, why is there a picture of a tasty chocolate bar here? This simple confection has been the subject of a very vocal, extremely entertaining family ‘dispute’ for a couple of weeks now. It was the first time, in some time, I’d felt comfortable enough to really contribute to anything frivolous. Amazingly, the Penguin became a metaphor: you can be yourself, even if there are consequences. It is okay to be different, if you can accommodate other people whilst doing so.
Then, a publication I enjoy launched their pamphlet contest and I found myself thinking of reasons why I couldn’t enter. I’d be never good enough for them, there are other things in contest, you don’t need to do anything else… and there were reasons piling up to not try something new. My brain was already placing obstacles in my way, to produce something of the standard required.
I’m not going to be that person any more.
The rules, therefore, are simple: no miring myself in chaos. No stressing about it. Write when you feel like it, don’t get lost in the work. If it makes you overly emotional, walk away. The task here is a realistic interpretation of where you exist as a human being. If all that can be achieved, I’m doing pretty well. So far, I’m halfway through. Once this is written, I’ll probably do some more. Undoubtedly, as I do, a Penguin will be involved.
Being kind to myself is part of the new rule set.
I mentioned in passing on Monday that I’ve had an idea in my brain for a while that might work as a ‘proper’ collection of poetry: that is, a lot of pieces, which when strung together create their own, self-contained story. I’ve only worked with small numbers of poems previously, because the idea of anything over twenty at once quite frankly made me feel unwell.
However, a lot has changed in the last three months. Lockdown has been surprisingly kind to me in that regard, and whilst many are struggling to put anything worthwhile together, I really have thrived under the pressure. Therefore, not only is the idea for a massive opus no longer just that but exists (at least in two parts) on paper, but the theme that will hold it all together is clear: mental health.
I feel there is a great hole here, waiting to be filled.
Nobody has experienced mental health difficulties in quite the way I have. It has created a unique mindset and outlook. Every word written is, like it or not, affected by that outlook: therefore if I can write a 70,000 word fanfic to a strict deadline I sure as fuck will make a poetry project come to life in the same timescale. What needs to happen is the setting for it all, and that’s already happening.
Putting the right foundations in place is the key, it is apparent already how that allows the business of words to correspond with ideas. There’ll also need to be a soundtrack too, and that’s being built on the newly-introduced daily walks around the block (note my block for this exercise is 4km long) as the rhythm of movement then corresponds to the business of lyrical suffrage. Trust me, that’s what it will be.
A great deal of suffering will take place for this art.
Many things are aligning, and radar is pinging back new places to be, other positions to consider. Every time something positive takes place that too sets up reverberations in the ether, possibilities previously not considered. I like these ideas being sonar, sounds from nowhere pinging backwards and forwards until their target is located. It appeals to the science part of my brain.
Strap in guys, things are about to get surreal.
The #SixFanfics project is going very well, with the last two decades of content scheduled to go to the polls tomorrow. I’ve had a massively productive day and caught up on a ton of outstanding stuff, and now it’s time to start contemplating where to be placing my attention going into the second half of the year. In an attempt to pick up more Patrons, I have again listened to feedback over appropriate stretch goals.
It’s been coming for a while, but today dawned the understanding I need a website to sell stuff on before I can start selling stuff. An account on Gumroad’s sat gathering dust for some months, and it is high time to start getting it ready for use. I’ll be programming time in June (can’t believe I just typed that) to start organising the levels of content we’ll need to accommodate a virtual poetry collection, plus physical output.
I’ve produced a number of unique commissions this year, for special occasions (a christening and two weddings, if I’m being honest) plus I made all my Christmas gifts this year as one-off, special poems for all my mates. This is a revenue stream that needs more promotion than is currently the case. Therefore, over the summer, there will be plenty of opportunity to make this all a reality.
I had something rejected this week that was, in my mind, probably the best piece of poetry I’ve ever written. It was the final straw that has made brain grasp that if I want success, waiting for other people to notice me is not enough any more. It is time to make the noise and push buttons and generally become what I have always been afraid of: a better person. This me is more productive, more proactive and more capable of changing the world around me.
This me is about to make everything better.
Poetry is having a rest next week, because I’m pretty rammed in May as it is and taking on too much, I have discovered, is a sure-fire way to burn me out. Therefore, here’s my last bit of stream of consciousness for a while. I am proud of these as a group of five, and we’ll probably revisit/revise this lot a bit later in the year. It’s useful to allow your brain space to shift and move.
It is amazing what happens when you relax and let words flow unhindered…
Here we are, staring disconsolately, fallow time between main course and dessert, lost in relationship’s parched weeds, future; tense, relationship.
Two plated, hot then cold: between minimal, extravagance once expected, now deflated, content remains unknown, grown, soon cast aside.
Fork civility, spoon-fed platitudes scraped, pushing scraps abound, innate remnants, sitting tenants pile pointless platitudes, resentful moods.
There we go, separate bills, fallow lives, consequences reaped; to sow once more, swipe left field-hand, season begins again.
It is odd, sometimes, how the things we least expect to emerge in our work end up doing just that. This poem is a case in point: the events of this poem are 100% true. The verse maps out a real, difficult event in my late 20’s. There is one deviation from fact, for the sake of a convenient conclusion, but this will be the second time this particular moment has surfaced in my poetry.
I know why this happened, at this point in proceedings. Lockdown is taking a quite particular mental toll on the trauma-affected areas of my brain: last night was a case in point. Understanding that this stuff is happening is one thing: dealing with it, when it happens, another thing entirely. Getting it out of the brain and onto a page/screen is undoubtedly helpful, however.
Next week’s poem, as a result, is a differenty beast entirely.
calm, nerves flattened
we’re all friends here
except, over there
middle finger raised
not this again
since when was he
on my side, big man
now what, possibly
mind’s already sold
axis powers pact
bigger picture painted
middle finger salute
exit, stage left
phone number, meet hand
Those of you paying attention will know I was away this last weekend: some of the scheduled work has suffered (no poetry this week, sorry) but in the main everything has been surprisingly well-organised. The stuff that should have appeared will do so at the weekend. I’m only a day behind on the Playlists. Frankly, this is the best it has ever been. No really, no hyperbole; a new and interesting crossroads has been reached.
Everything is coming together: a poetry collection I can be genuinely proud of in final stages of re-write. Poetry that is a completely accurate and honest representation of what I am becoming in reality. There’s even a short story waiting in the wings, amazingly apposite for current circumstances. With my objective hat on, none of this is really just luck or coincidence either. Years of hard work is coming to fruition.
This is the consequence of looking upward, forward to what could be possible.
A lot of times, it is easy to self-convince that targets are being hit: however, if nothing comes from your work but rejection, is that really a perception worth hanging onto? It’s the ephemeral, mystical value of ‘polish’ which I’ve spoken about before: something that you truly believe is as good as it gets, until back it comes from someone whose subsequently published selections you neither grasp nor understand.
It takes a lot of hard work to re-write things you were convinced were perfect before, I’ll tell you. Except, there will come a point somewhere in that process where you’ll grasp an inescapable truth: you were deluding yourself. It’s never an intentional lie, but evolves from understanding that we all improve, over time, with practice. Writing, as we have also discussed before, is no different to exercising, or learning to play a musical instrument, or drawing.
The more you push yourself, the better things get.
This week therefore is doing this with pieces of work I’m already supremely proud of. The unexpected bonus from this has also been the emergence of some new pieces that are making me genuinely rather excited: creativity will inevitably spawn more of the same, often in directions that are totally unforseen or surprising. Then one just has to try and keep the momentum going.
This will be me, making sure that’s exactly what happens in the next week.
This week, a major part of my February output has changed. For this month’s Big Submission [TM] the plan originally had been to repurpose what is, in my heart, the more personal set of poems from a selection of three possible entries. Except, there’s been a bit of a lightbulb moment after a week of staring at stuff with no real idea of how I can rebuild those moments, in some cases from scratch.
So, on Monday, time made me walk away and re-approach a selection that… well, is emotionally quite difficult to read. It was the sense of dread this collection radiated that had kept it untouched for some time, but in terms of salvageability and improvement, this was the best bet. My third selection has neither cohesion or narrative flow and needs to be completely reconstructed.
Instead, this was the better bet.
It was hard work. I’ve cried more in the last 48 hours than has been the case for weeks. Mentally, I am exhausted, but what now exists is a piece of work that I am genuinely very proud of. More importantly, this is the piece that, regardless of what other people decide, will see the light of day in some form as a printed work before the year is out. Self-publishing, on whatever format, will happen in 2020.
It also puts into stark relief exactly how much work has been done in the last year or so, and how little grasp there is of what exists and in what form. I’ve taken the step this morning of archiving the key files off to backups in two seperate locations, not just on my hard drive. You can never be too careful, after all. Then, there really needs to be some time to sort out exactly what has been stuffed where.
There’s an early Spring Clean coming, I think, a lot to do with this recent outpouring of emotional pressure. Many things can now be thrown away, for good, no longer required to move pace of my progress forward. They were, it occurs to me now, simply support structures anyway. Now I’m confident and comfortable enough to stand alone, none of it is required any longer. I can move forward, considerably lighter.
This really is the best work I have ever written.
This one’s had one word changed from online publication to archive. Just the one, otherwise I’m well pleased with the result. No over egging the pudding either, forget all those flowery epithets, they are for another’s poetry this week and absolutely not mine. Sometimes I feel like going off on an explanation safari, but this is perfect just as it is.
Occasionally, you just do good work.
Embrace the Unknown
Darkness; emotion orbits vast unmapped despair, silence empty, cold witness shares: countless satellites, recollection of rhymes past, decaying paths outlast.
Atoms attract, circling wholes unfilled, potential friction, agitating excitement; life’s spark, undefinable brilliance, light into shadow increasing potential.
Primal forces, tectonics shift multiple planes, dimensions reconstructed; terraformed canvas, nature’s palette shades new subtleties, depth opening, breadth steady.
Cellular reorganisation, division towards unity, germination wresting power: soil, sky and liquid’s constant fall; blank canvas growing green, brown to blue.
New world made, yours: myriad possibilities, virgin landscape sprawls untouched, inviting hope, embracing unknown creation; all life at last.
Here we are at week three already, although it does seem about three months since all of this started. However, the last seven days have been a bit of an up and down affair, with this one of the notable highlights. Poetry’s an odd thing: what might make one person run away screaming will make another appreciate your work unprompted. These five verses got more likes combined than I’ve managed in several months.
It just goes to prove, you never know. I pushed out of comfort zones. It’s structure that’s unfamiliar yet led me in the right direction every ‘verse.’ It’s nomenclature that feels difficult and yet sits comfortably with the progression. I’m not yet in the realms of smart, clever poets I look at and think ‘God I wish I’d written that‘ but it is honest, concrete progress. That’s all I can really ask for.
Everything right now moves me forward.
between exhales, pain distributes; adagio’s neat cursive sweep records another day within, despite intentions soundly built, belief collapsed, unhinged.
rhythmic stress, reality’s strained counterpoint: accepting downbeat concrete cadence only marks temporary transitions – release; extensions.
unchaste, canvas torn, counted almost out, rebound; suckered pinch, naught remains: woman down, distract, reconstitute idea, reborn.
constant inhale, cycle toned, repercussions symbolism, adrift no more: aloft, hope for tomorrow brandished; rewarding whole.
inhale optimism’s warm, upward trajectory; second stage preparation bolsters future, definition scored: sharp synonymy dismissing doubt.